One of the best scenes in the 1992 movie “Wayne’s World” is when Wayne and Garth are lying on top of a car watching planes overhead fly in and out of O’Hare. They’re talking about a girl Wayne likes (“If she were a president, she’d be Babe-raham Lincoln”) and whether Bugs Bunny dressed as a girl is attractive.
I love this scene because this is how close friendships work—you goof around, you say silly things, you try out ideas and you sympathize with the other person’s obsessions. It’s a rare and beautiful thing to find someone you can be weird with, who thinks you’re OK. You have to be on the lookout for kindred spirits, as they show up at unexpected places and times.
“Revolution,” a new play by Brett Neveu at A Red Orchid Theatre, celebrates this kind of friendship. It’s not about much—just a little improvised birthday party in an alley behind a beauty salon. But it deals with the most essential matters—the need for friendship, and connection, and celebrating another year of not dying.
The play has three characters. There’s Puff (Stephanie Shum) and Jame (Taylor Blim), who are best friends working together at the Revolution Cuts beauty salon. Puff is a bundle of anxieties. Tension radiates from her in almost visible waves. She just got promoted, and worries about how she’ll handle it. Jame is warm and accommodating—she admires Puff’s intelligence and is open to doing whatever Puff wants to celebrate her twenty-sixth birthday. They decide to just sit in the alley and drink beer—with the option of maybe a fancy drink at Rainforest Café later.
Enter Georgia, played by invaluable Red Orchid ensemble member Natalie West. Decades older than the salon girls, Georgia has worked at a nearby Ross Store for nine years. Whereas Puff and Jame are hip and tattooed, Georgia is frumpy, with disorderly, straw-colored hair, a big pink purse and a long purple sweater buttoned all the way up. She seems like a combination of Garth and another Dana Carvey character, the Church Lady.
Surprisingly, Puff invites her to the party. This act of grace starts the magic. They learn that Georgia is not what she seems—she’s an hilarious oddball with a dark genius at her center, that rhymes with the same quality in the Revolution girls. There’s a peril here—they don’t know each other, and this could all go terribly wrong. But they take a chance on connection.
The dialogue is funny and touching; performed with brio and full commitment by the three actors. The girls quote from “Macbeth,” which makes sense, since the three are alley versions of the three witches, gathered around their magic pile of alcohol and candy. The wonderful set by Kotryna Hilko, lit by Erica Lauren Maholmes, looks just like an alley behind a shop, complete with water stains, smashed soda cans and grass growing between the pavement cracks.
In the program notes, director Travis A. Knight writs that he read the script in April 2022, during a bad day. He had been reading mostly bleak scripts after two years of a global pandemic. Reading “Revolution” made him feel lighter.
Three years after the start of COVID, and facing more global and local crises, we can use a play like “Revolution” now. Who knows what the future will bring? To paraphrase Georgia, there’s a danger of being caught in the folds of time—you need friends, celebration and human contact to pull you free. So grab a friend and go see “Revolution”—it’s time to get weird together.
“Revolution” is on stage at A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 North Wells, through November 5. Tickets are available at aredorchidtheatre.org.